I spent yesterday visiting three different schools in our district with a parent. Each school teaches children who are hard of hearing with one specific method. One school teaches children sign language, one teaches using cued speech, and another is a full oral/auditory program. Each school was amazing. As we walked through each one I just couldn't help thinking how lucky we are to live in a district that provides such resources. Each school provides a support group for parents, classes on learning/supporting their method of communicating, and an audiologist in the building. None of these schools would be a bad choice.
I don't envy the parent's decision. He's not just choosing a school for his daughter's next few years, he's deciding on how she will communicate with others, how she will learn to listen to others, and the community she will identify herself with. He's choosing her peer group, the resources she'll have available to her as she grows, and in some ways, the resources she'll have for her the rest of her life, especially if he chooses the school with sign language.
It's a lot for me to think about as her teacher, and I'm not her parent.
This little girl is amazing. Despite her profound hearing loss she's an energetic, intelligent, capable child who is experiencing life with hearing aids for the first time in her life. Watching her adjust to being able to hear sounds and use them to navigate her world has been a remarkable experiences for all of us. So now her parents have the responsibility of deciding which of these schools will give her the best opportunity to fully grow, learn, become confident and self assured. Which will give her the tools to allow her to be the most successful for the rest of her life?
On our tour we met the kids in each program. We met children in cued speech who have no hearing at all, but are now speaking because they've been in the cued speech program since preschool. We met very confident, bright children using sign language to navigate through their day. The teachers at the cued speech program shared with us that when their older students return to visit they've usually picked up sign language from their middle school or high school programs. These students say they prefer speaking in sign language when they are chatting with friends, but like using cued speech to hear what the teacher is saying.
When we walked into the sign language classroom we were met by one second or third grade boy who asked (through signing) if we were deaf. When we said no he asked if we were hearing impaired. When we said no he confirmed that we were hearing persons. On learning that we were, he screwed up his face in disgust and turned back to his task, having fully lost interest in our presence. Many of the other adults in the room were hearing impaired or deaf, and many were visiting from a nearby deaf college. The community in the room was clearly very strong.
Each school had its own cheering section, advocating for why teaching a child with her amount of hearing loss sign language would be best, or why she should learn cued speech, or why she should be in a full oral/auditory program. And each school has excellent points. There are advantages and disadvantages to each- and now her parents have to attempt to sift through all of that, look ahead into the future, and decide what will be best for her their five year old. It's exciting to have so many options for her, but I can't imagine how they are agonizing over which is the best.